Ready to face music
Rattled by the negative feedback on the flawed implementation of demonetisation, some raised the issue at a recent meeting of BJP office-bearers. Party president Amit Shah replied that they should not go by media reports but personally go to their constituencies and provide a feedback on any genuine problems which can be rectified. Prime Minister Narendra Modi asked party members not to harp on what has already been done but to move forward by suggesting remedial measures. Banks in the poll-going states of Uttar Pradesh and Punjab are particularly badly hit and unable to meet the cash demand. This is partly because UP politicians sometimes monopolise the new currency notes in a bank through threats of violence and coercion against bank officials. The cash allocation to these two states was recently increased. Modi informed an RSS delegation, which expressed reservations on demonetisation implementation, that the nation was above the party and even if there was bad news in the UP polls and the next general elections, he was prepared to face the consequences. Shah, incidentally, buoyed by recent local election results in Chandigarh and elsewhere as well as internal surveys in UP, does not believe demonetisation will harm the party’s poll prospects, provided the money supply picks up.
Chose wrong horse
The ministry of external affairs was caught off guard when Donald Trump was elected US President since it had not bothered to cultivate the Trump camp. India’s US experts presumed that Hillary Clinton, who is a familiar face in India, would be victorious. The Indian Embassy in Washington is now trying desperately to make contact with Trump’s advisers. Foreign secretary S Jaishankar, NSA Ajit Doval and BJP general secretary Ram Madhav have made two trips to the US. India’s best conduit to the Trump think-tank is the conservative Indian American businessman Shalabh (Shalli) Kumar, who formed the Republican Hindu coalition which came up with the phrase “Ab ki baar Trump sarkar” and donated a million dollars to the Trump campaign. At first, Indian diplomats refused to take Kumar’s offer of help seriously. But after he organised a meeting for Jaishankar and Indian Ambassador to the US Navtej Sarna with Republican leader Newt Gingrich, they have realised Kumar’s value, even if they do not acknowledge it openly.
Raids, not aid
The joke in Tamil Nadu is that chief minister O Panneerselvam met Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday to ask for “aid’’ and Modi misheard it as “raid’’. The day after, chief secretary P Rama Mohana Rao’s house in Chennai was raided by the Income-Tax authorities. Actually, Rao, who accompanied Panneerselvam to Delhi, had reportedly got wind of an impending raid and tried unsuccessfully to get a central minister to intervene on his behalf. Incidentally, Lok Sabha deputy speaker M Thambidurai turned up for Panneerselvam’s meeting with Modi at his residence. However, Thambidurai could not attend the interaction between the PM and CM since no prior appointment had been sought on his behalf.
The rifts in the Congress are increasingly visible. When Rahul Gandhi visited Mehsana in Gujarat last week, the party general secretary in charge of Gujarat, Gurudas Kamat, was missing. Kamat is annoyed at Rahul promoting his arch-rival in Maharashtra, Sanjay Nirupam. Mukul Wasnik, who has nothing to do with Gujarat affairs, made a speech which had little impact on the audience. Incidentally, a large section of the Congress was flabbergasted when a day after Rahul threatened that he would expose the Prime Minister’s corruption and create an “earthquake”, he was photographed meeting Modi to discuss the plight of farmers. Since party persons still cannot criticise a Gandhi directly, they blamed Jyotiraditya Scindia. Meanwhile, in Chandigarh, Manish Tewari blamed Pawan Bansal for the civic poll loss.
Sahara chief Subrato Roy wanted to name the Pune international cricket stadium after himself and his company, but the deal fell through. Now, Reliance Industries has approached the Maharashtra Cricket Association for re-naming the Wankhede stadium in Mumbai after the late Dhirubhai Ambani. The company owns the Mumbai IPL franchise and has helped upgrade the stadium. Wankhede was a former Assembly speaker who once headed the state cricket association.